Over the weekend we participated in a local comic book convention, and always there is some new gadget even at conventions where people might not think that there is going to be high technology. What made the convention interesting was that there were a number of vendors who were using Square for their credit card payments rather than their banks, or other merchant processing terminals.
First the disclosure – this is a non-compensated endorsement of a product I found extraordinarily capable. I have used this product in the course of my own business, and while I love it – your own personal experience will vary.
I used the square application on an HTC Incredible Android phone, and overall got very positive comments back from customers who were using the product, and other merchants that I talked to who were using the Square product.
While we have a merchant account, that involves a lot of old fashioned technology, and yes I actually saw someone doing paper carbon credit card processing (I simply cannot comment on that one). No one wants to lug around a credit card system when you do not have to, and the cost of power at a convention is usually four to five times what you would pay anywhere else for power if you are lucky. Being able to keep costs down is a major part of retail, and this is why Square worked so well over the weekend.
But the bad news first, the one major downside and that was battery life, with the Square application running, the battery on my phone only lasted about 2 hours, meaning in a booth with no power we were using the laptop to keep the phone charged. It worked, but normally my phone will last about 12 to 14 hours of my normal use, so it was surprising to see that Square really porked out on power, and that is a major downside in the middle of a convention where power is scarce.
Given that, the plus side is that both merchants and customers actually liked the application. We got a lot of questions about how it works from customers, many who thought the application was simply cool. Using the HTC Incredible touch screen customers were able to sign their credit card receipts without a hitch. Other merchants also found the product fairly cool, although most of us had serious issues with the credit card reader not working correctly so many of us simply typed in the credit card numbers.
Only one customer asked us about security of their transaction, and went out to Square to get their questions answered by the web site. The customer then let us process their card after checking out the web site. The even better part is that I don’t have a pile of paper receipts, just an acknowledgement in my e-mail which is easy enough to archive off and call it good.
It is always nice to find something that simply works the way that it is supposed to work, and Square worked flawlessly for many of the merchants at the comic show this weekend. When even comic shop owners can use a product like this, it makes the banks systems that we would have had to rent for a couple hundred dollars for the weekend, power and telco line at the convention so much cheaper. While the rates might be a bit high for credit processing, when you take in the rest of the costs at a convention this simply made sense.
The question is how will the banks do something similar or is Square going to take the entire market niche?
(Cross-posted @ Managing Intellectual Property & IT Security)